The Secret Garden

Chapter Thirty-One: "Consilium"

In the Company of Serpents

Felix has been in touch with his mentor Ibrahim, asking for advice on how to deal with the apparent intrusions into the mages’ minds. Ibrahim investigates, tells Felix his findings, then recommends that the rest of the group allow him to examine them as well. Felix contacts his companions and they agree, convening at the Mobius Strip for a meeting with Ibrahim.

Once they are gathered, Ibrahim contacts them through a scintillating spray of geometric complexity, delving into their minds to see what damage has been done. He warns them that there will probably be countermeasures of some kind in place, but the mages urge him to carry out the investigation anyway.

Ibrahim reveals that it was not Solomon who carried out the intrusion into their minds; he was merely there to provide obfuscation. Ibrahim cannot tell who was responsible – their Resonance is too well-hidden. He can see that the intrusion was precise and targeted on information specific to the Chalcedony Cathedral. All the mages were scanned to make sure that they were at the Cathedral, then Felix and Aiden received more in-depth scans – the former for more information on the Cathedral, and the latter with a Mind/Prime/Spirit scan of great depth.

Midway through Ibrahim’s investigation, a series of chimes sound in the Umbra. Ibrahim cuts the connection immediately, and at the same time a spirit akin to a bird of paradise made from streaming white fire appears in the Periphery. Seconds later, a Correspondence scrying window opens, then closes again as rapidly.

Kailani converses with the spirit and it reveals to her that it has been compelled to observe them by someone who lives “through a golden door”. On the other side of the door, this person is keeping the spirit’s eggs captive, thereby compelling its cooperation. Kailani passes this information on to the rest of the group and they conclude that the Brythonic Lodge are using the spirit to monitor and track them. Consequently, they decide to depart London for a few hours, unsure of what might happen.

They head to a country pub outside the city called The Plough and discuss their options, including the possibility of warning the Cathedral. Kailani argues that they didn’t need to warn the Cathedral at all, as she would already know, given that her future self is head of the Bone Curia. Felix thinks that there are many possible future Kailanis, and that the one at the Cathedral may never come to pass in the current timeline. Kailani bets him £10 that the one at the Cathedral is her. She even made a prediction of what her future self would say to Felix, were he to warn her.

The mages return to London that night, get themselves a boat and head out onto the Thames. There they seek the Shallowing at Caractacus’ Isle to return to Cathedral to warn them that Lodge forces might be en route. The Cathedral, however, is gone and the Shallowing closed. Kailani uses her Time senses to view the recent past. She sees what looks like some kind of attack on the Cathedral. The Cathedral rings its great cloister bell and Petrefax race back towards its towers from all across the city. The bell makes a sound like it has cracked and fallen out of its tower and the Cathedral vanishes, leaving the Schism’s winds swirling in its wake. The mages depart, knowing the matter is now closed, one way or the other.

The time has finally come for the mages to attend the Consilium at the Greenwich Observatory. They make their way there and are greeted by a uniformed staff member who seems to be under the impression that they are there as part of some private night-time tour. He ushers them into the central auditorium of the Observatory where laser-generated displays of the Horsehead Nebula are accompanied by the soft strains of Neptune from Holst’s “The Planets”.

The newcomers are introduced to those present: Cavell, Solomon, Portobello, and Nebuchadnezzar from the Brythonic Lodge; Morgayne, Niniane, and Tristan of the Bearers of the Belt of Lud; and Mama Nettie, Tycho, and Corduroy Jack of the city’s independent mages. The mages introduce themselves in turn with their real names.

They are invited to make their representations to the Consilium, and raise three points. Firstly, they would like to become an official cabal. Secondly, they lodge a formal complaint against Portobello for his attack on the Zigg’raugglurr and the prior damage this caused to the Mobius Strip. Thirdly, they ask for an investigation into the intrusions into their minds.

Portobello becomes very agitated at being blamed for the battle with the Zigg’raugglurr and tries to place the blame on the mages. He argues that if he is to be blamed for causing damage before he knew it was happening, then the mages can be blamed for not knowing the Zigg’raugglurr would attack. The mages respond that the problem is not foreknowledge, or the lack or it – the problem is Portobello cutting loose with his Forces arts with little to no provocation. Tristan taunts Portobello, asking if Ludwig will be there to back him up. Portobello loses his temper and demands justice. Cavell concurs with his right to this, and Portobello, chooses Certamen. The mages ask who Ludwig is, and the Lodge get very upset and don’t want to talk about “the Oathbreaker”.

Cavell says that the Consilium will vote on the establishment of the mages’ cabal once its own questions have been answered. Should they be accepted as a cabal, then one of them will face Certamen with Portobello. Cavell also promises to look into the evidence surrounding the mind intrusion and make a decision. Morgayne heaps scorn on his pompous manner and demands that they just get on with things.

As for the Consilium’s questions, Cavell has three points of his own that he wants addressed. Firstly, he wants the Spaniard’s body and possessions. Secondly, he wants all the information that the have regarding Baedecker’s death. And thirdly, Cavell wants them to explain how the Chalcedony Cathedral knew to leave prematurely.

The mages happily tell Cavell where they dumped the Spaniard’s body, but refuse to hand over any possessions. Felix states that they have suffered enough losses already and sees Villanova’s possessions as adequate recompense. Cavell grudgingly agrees.

Where Baedecker is concerned, they divulge all that they know regarding his death and their subsequent interactions with Klara Neumann and Theora. Mama Nettie seems to recognise the description of Theora and her Resonance. Cavell is scornful that they did not return to the scene of Baedecker’s death to investigate there. Portobello takes his scorn to the next level, openly mocking the mages, saying that they are just another bunch of chumps Baedecker hired after he got the Regulators all killed. Tristan makes fun of Portobello again, asking him if Ludwig would agree, were he here. This proves to be too much for the Lodge, and angry words fly back and forth between them and the Belters. Alastair asks again for someone explain who Ludwig and Cavell starts shouting that the Oathbreaker’s name is not to be mentioned. Corduroy Jack interrupts the tumult, and promises to tell Alastair all about it over a pint. An uneasy calm reasserts itself at Jack’s words.

Before the mages can address Cavell’s third point, there is a loud crashing noise as something smashes through a window in a neighbouring room. Solomon teleports directly to the source of the noise and the others run after him. There they see that one of the Petrefax has flown in through a window and is flailing about in panic. Solomon is trying to restrain it magically. Portobello prepares an attack. Aiden and Alastair draw their guns. Things look about to turn ugly when Kailani enters the room. The Petrefax, identifying itself as Gothrak, demands sanctuary from the “Great One”. Portobello insists that Kailani cannot give sanctuary as she and her companions are not yet a cabal. Cavell concurs but before matters get worse, Mama Nettie calls for a recess. Cavell accepts, relieved of a chance to allow some semblance of order to return to the proceedings.

Mama Nettie escorts the group up onto the ringing balcony above the auditorium and makes sure that certain things are clear to them. This is a hearing into their conduct. The Lodge will just whitewash anything that makes them look bad so there is little sense in trying to confront them. The mages have already given up a great deal: their real names, their dealings with Baedecker. The question for them is how much more do they want to surrender? The mages thank her and she makes it clear that she just enjoys sticking it to the Lodge.

Mama Nettie leaves them to deliberate as Morgayne arrives. Morgayne asks who they have chosen to fight against Portobello, and it falls to Felix to take up the challenge. When Morgayne realises that Felix has never fought a Certamen bout before, she suggests that he get in some practice. All agree and head into the observatory gardens. There, Niniane enchants the area with various shields and Tristan casts Squaring the Circle. Morgayne spends a few minutes explaining the basics, then she and Felix engage in their practice duel. Morgayne wins easily, but as she departs, she gifts Felix with several drams of Quintessence to use in his coming bout with Portobello. Because she likes sticking it to the Lodge.

Moments later, Kailani notices someone spying on them from behind a tree with a small hand-held camcorder. The group rush him and see that it is none other than Tycho. At first, Tycho feigns interest in Gothrak, claiming he wants pictures of “the creature”. Kailani invites him to come and meet the Stone Hunter, and it soon becomes apparent that Tycho is utterly terrified of the creature. Suspicious of such a degree of fear in one of the Awakened, Alastair scans him and realises that Tycho is using some kind of disguise to make himself look like a mage when he is actually a Sleeper. Unsure of how Tycho is doing this (the disguise relies on some kind of static magic that Alastair doesn’t recognise), Alastair alerts his companions, and Tyhco is immediately taken prisoner.

Under questioning, Tycho breaks completely and reveals that he is really called Rupert Soames and is a reporter for the Nu Mu News and thought he was infiltrating a meeting of the Illuminati. The mages march him back inside where he is swiftly reduced to a blubbering wreck by the enormity of his predicament. Cavell orders Solomon to deal with the matter, and Solomon puts Tycho to sleep and carries him off to another chamber in the observatory.

Cavell returns to the matter of the Cathedral and now the mages counter by saying that they have uncovered a mole here and so the Lodge now owes them a favour. Cavell seems unsure but Morgayne insists that this is fair. Mama Nettie adds her voice to the mix, as does Corduroy Jack.

When Cavell agrees, Morgayne demands that the vote be cast, stating that it’s a done deal so they might as well get it over with. Cavell resignedly concurs and the mages are incorporated as the Butterfly Effect cabal.

This done, Portobello can’t get down to the Certamen chamber fast enough. Once there, he goes on at length about how the circle at Doissetep was much nicer and made by Verdi. Solomon says Portobello has never been to Doissetep. Portobello says he might have been often, but Solomon might not remember any more due to the effects of the Ascension War. There is no reply for this kind of idiocy, and Solomon does not attempt to give one.

Without further ado, the duel is on. Portobello is a formidable opponent, aggressive and forceful in his style, and Feflix soon finds himself in trouble. Holding his Prime Sphere in reserve, Felix begins some careful and clever Quintessence management, and soon begins to recover ground. A series of failed attempts to disarm Felix leave Portobello vulnerable, and Feflix makes one last, desperate gambit. He hurls all but his last few drams of Quintessence into a final attack, but Portobello is able to counter at the last moment. He ripostes, and Felix is defeated. As they are shaking hands, Felix realises that Portobello was cheating, having brought a spare supply of Quintessence into the circle. He make sure that Portobello knows he has been discovered, shakes hands, and walks away.

The circle chamber empties, the matters of the Consilium now resolved, once way or the other. The Butterfly Effect depart, now fully established as a cabal, with allies, enemies, and a pet gargoyle. And there was much rejoicing.

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